Armenian Protesters Demand Karabakh's Self-Proclaimed Leader's Resignation
Armenian people in Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh have demanded the resignation of the region's self-proclaimed leader Arayik Harutyunyan.
The protests were held in Khankandi (Stepanakert) on June 21 and 22 following Harutyunyan's congratulation message to Armenia's acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan following the 20 June snap parliamentary election.
"I am happy that Armenia's state bodies and people managed to hold democratic election despite numerous foreign and domestic difficulties and challenges," Harutyunyan said on June 21.
He also wished success to "other political forces which won people's trust", calling for unity to overcome challenges caused by the 2020 Karabakh war.
Harutyunyan was also seen at the office of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's Civil Contract party on the parliamentary election day. According to Armenia's Central Electoral Commission, Nikol Pashinyan's Civil Contract party won 53.9% of the vote.
Addressing the protesters on June 22, Harutyunyan said that he was not going to resign. "It is foolish to think that I am happy with the current situation, or to think that I have any personal interest to continue my tenure. Not at all. I just consider myself responsible in front of our nation and the future generations so that I do not destroy our state with an emotional or short-sighted escape," he added.
Following the protest, Harutyunyan visited the graves of the killed soldiers and said that a snap election will be held in Karabakh in a reasonable time frame, and that he would not stand in elections and would quit politics.
Parliamentary parties of Nagorno-Karabakh called for Harutyunyan's resignation beginning from late 2020 following the defeat in the war with Azerbaijan which resulted in significant territorial losses for Armenia and Karabakh.
Azerbaijani forces liberated over 300 occupied settlements, including the cities of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Shusha, from nearly 30-year-long illegal Armenian occupation in a counter-attack operation that was carried out between September 27 and November 9, 2020. The war ended in a trilateral statement signed on November 10 by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia. Under the statement, Armenia also returned the occupied Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin districts to Azerbaijan by December 1. Russia deployed a peacekeeping contingent to safeguard the ceasefire in the region under the agreement.
At a rally in Yerevan on June 21, Pashinyan said that it was unacceptable "to sow discord between the people of Armenia and Artsakh [Karabakh]", adding that the Armenian people and the government would always stand by the Nagorno-Karabakh.